|Publication number||US7921658 B2|
|Application number||US 12/511,280|
|Publication date||Apr 12, 2011|
|Filing date||Jul 29, 2009|
|Priority date||Jan 9, 2006|
|Also published as||US7568358, US20070157638, US20090284157|
|Publication number||12511280, 511280, US 7921658 B2, US 7921658B2, US-B2-7921658, US7921658 B2, US7921658B2|
|Inventors||Robert L. Wetekamp|
|Original Assignee||Whirlpool Corporation|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (16), Referenced by (1), Classifications (8), Legal Events (1)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
This application is a divisional of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/327,412, filed on Jan. 9, 2006, which application is hereby incorporated by reference.
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention pertains to the art of refrigerators and, more particularly, to a control for operating a light associated with a refrigerator door dispenser.
2. Discussion of the Prior Art
Door mounted dispensers are widely known in the art of refrigerators. Typically, the dispenser is mounted in the freezer door and, when activated, dispenses ice and/or water depending upon a consumer's particular need. Dispensers are provided in various forms and with a variety of features depending on the particular refrigerator model. That is, dispensers can range from models that simply dispense ice cubes and/or water, to more complex models that dispense ice in various forms, as well as provide filtered water.
Most dispensers incorporate a light that is illuminated whenever the dispenser is activated. In some cases, the dispenser light can be employed as a night light. That is, the light is illuminated at a first level based upon ambient light conditions and, at a second, higher, level when the dispenser is activated. The higher level increases visibility in order to enable a consumer to readily release ice or water into, for example, a glass. However, one problem encountered with the night light is establishing an ambient light level at which the light will be illuminated at the first level. It has been found that, depending on the installation, the light is typically illuminated too early in the day. In some particularly low-light level installations, the light may be operated continuously, thereby providing a false impression that a problem may exist with the refrigerator. In either case, the overall service life of the light is reduced significantly.
Therefore, despite the existence of light controls for dispensers in the prior art, there still exists a need for a control for a refrigerator dispenser light. More specifically, there exists a need for a control that enables a consumer to selectively set an ambient light level at which the dispenser light is activated when operating in a night light mode.
The present invention is directed to a light control for a dispenser mounted on a refrigerator door. The refrigerator includes an outer shell within which is defined a fresh food compartment and a freezer compartment. The refrigerator further includes a door which is pivotally mounted relative to the outer shell for selectively closing at least one of the fresh food and freezer compartments. The door is provided with a dispenser that enables a consumer to retrieve ice and/or water without accessing the compartment, while the dispenser incorporates a light.
In accordance with a preferred embodiment of the invention, the dispenser includes rear and opposing side walls that collectively define a cavity, which is adapted to be illuminated by the light, and a release mechanism for dispensing ice and/or water. The light can be operated in one of three distinct modes. In a first mode, the light is continuously illuminated. In a second mode, the light is illuminated only through activation of the release mechanism. In a third mode, the light is illuminated based upon a sensed level of ambient light present at or near the refrigerator. More specifically, in the third mode, the light is illuminated at a first level based upon ambient light, and a second, higher level when the release mechanism is operated. In the most preferred form of the invention, the level of ambient light required to activate the light in the third mode can be set by a consumer through control panel inputs.
Additional objects, features and advantages of the present invention will become more readily apparent from the following detailed description of a preferred embodiment when taken in conjunction with the drawings wherein like reference numerals refer to corresponding parts in the several views.
With initial reference to
In a manner also known in the art, fresh food compartment 8 is provided with a plurality of vertically height adjustable shelves 20-22 supported by a pair of shelf support rails, one of which is indicated at 25. At a lowermost portion of fresh food compartment 8 is illustrated various temperature or climate controlled bins 28 and 29, as well as a conventional storage compartment 30. At an upper region of fresh food compartment 8 is mounted a temperature control housing or user interface 40. In the embodiment shown, interface 40 includes a display zone 42 and a plurality of control elements 45-49. Control elements 45-48 are constituted by temperature control elements for adjusting a temperature of fresh food compartment 8 and freezer compartment 9, while control element 49 is constituted by an auxiliary control element for re-setting, for example, a door alarm. The particular details of user interface 40 are set forth in greater detail in commonly assigned U.S. patent application entitled “Refrigerator Control Including a Hidden Features Menu” filed on even date herewith. In any event, for the sake of completeness, interface 40 includes a controller or CPU 57 operatively connected to refrigeration components (not shown), as well as a light 63 which, in a manner known in the art, is controlled by a switch 65 operated by opening and closing door 10.
The present invention is directed to the particular operation of dispenser 14. As best shown in
As further shown in
As set forth above, cavity light 96 is operable in three distinct modes which may be selected through control buttons 137-139. More specifically, cavity light 96 can be operated in an AUTO mode through activation of button 137, an ON mode through activation of button 138 and an OFF mode through activation of button 139. In the ON mode, cavity light 96 is continuously illuminated as long as power is supplied to refrigerator 2, regardless of whether release mechanism 93 is activated. Conversely, in the OFF mode, cavity light 96 remains inactive until release mechanism 93 is activated to dispense water and/or ice. More specifically, manipulation of release mechanism 93 activates cavity light 96 to illuminate cavity 90. In the most preferred form of the invention, once a consumer has completed the water and/or ice dispensing operation, i.e., following de-activation of the dispensing operation, the intensity of cavity light 96 will gradually decrease or decay as if on a dimmer, until cavity light 96 is inactive.
In the AUTO mode, cavity light 96 is activated when ambient light, at or about refrigerator 2, reaches a predetermined level. More specifically, as ambient light about refrigerator 2 begins to diminish, cavity light 96 is activated to serve as, for example, a night light. In accordance with one aspect of the invention, cavity light 96 is activated at a first illumination level once the ambient light has reached the predetermined level. However, when release mechanism 93 is activated, the intensity of cavity light 96 increases to full power to provide illumination to cavity 90. In a manner similar to that described above with respect to the OFF mode of operation, once the consumer has finished dispensing water and/or ice, the intensity of cavity light 96 will gradually decrease or decay, as if on a dimmer, until reaching the first intensity level.
In accordance with the most preferred form of the invention, the predetermined level of ambient light can be selected by a consumer. That is, if a consumer wishes to have cavity light 96 activated at either a lighter or darker ambient light level, the consumer simply selects the desired light level through interface 40. In further accordance with the most preferred form of the invention, a user can select from a low light level through a high light level by choosing a value between 1 and, for example, 7. For example, if a consumer wishes cavity light 96 to be illuminated at a higher degree of ambient light, a 1 is entered into a light level selection portion of interface 40 or, alternatively, if a consumer wishes ambient light to be at a lower level, a 7 can be entered into interface 40. With this arrangement, the light control of the present invention allows a consumer to adapt an operation of a dispenser cavity light 96 to accommodate various installations. That is, depending on whether the refrigerator is located in lighter or darker areas of a kitchen, operation of the cavity light 96 can be tailored to the surrounding light levels.
Although described with reference to a preferred embodiment of the invention, it should be readily understood that various changes and/or modifications can be made to the invention without departing from the spirit thereof. For instance, the particular form and arrangement of control panel 110 and, for that matter, dispenser 14, can vary without departing from the scope of the present invention. In general, the invention is only intended to be limited by the scope of the following claims.
|Cited Patent||Filing date||Publication date||Applicant||Title|
|US4868672 *||Sep 28, 1987||Sep 19, 1989||Kabushiki Kaisha Toshiba||Image reading device having a document handling system|
|US5126078 *||Nov 5, 1990||Jun 30, 1992||Steiner Company, Inc.||Air freshener dispenser with replaceable cartridge exhaustion alarm|
|US5253782 *||May 20, 1992||Oct 19, 1993||Paul A. Wiebel||Article dispensing apparatus|
|US5823390 *||Oct 6, 1995||Oct 20, 1998||Technical Concepts, L.P.||Chemical dispensing apparatus having a pivotal actuator|
|US6139017 *||Nov 10, 1998||Oct 31, 2000||Sammy Corporation||Premium-dispensing game|
|US6394310 *||Sep 14, 2000||May 28, 2002||Kenneth J. Muderlak||System and method for programmably dispensing material|
|US6543335 *||Sep 21, 1999||Apr 8, 2003||Food Equipment Technologies Company, Inc.||Brewing system with electrical controller and method|
|US6636772 *||Aug 10, 2001||Oct 21, 2003||Renau Corporation||System and method for enabling device operation attribute-controlling commands to be entered and indicated by the operation of elements from outside the device|
|US6681585 *||Jan 23, 2003||Jan 27, 2004||Whirlpool Corporation||Liquid dispenser with self-filling container|
|US6705356 *||Apr 30, 2003||Mar 16, 2004||John C. Barton||Touchless automatic fiber optic beverage/ice dispenser|
|US7089763 *||Feb 25, 2002||Aug 15, 2006||Worldwide Water, L.L.C.||Portable, potable water recovery and dispensing apparatus|
|US7201005 *||Jun 4, 2004||Apr 10, 2007||Whirlpool Corporation||Measured fill water dispenser for refrigerator freezer|
|US7543453 *||Dec 9, 2005||Jun 9, 2009||Whirlpool Corporation||Measured fill water dispenser for refrigerator|
|US20020016198 *||Oct 9, 2001||Feb 7, 2002||Faith William B.||Arcade game|
|US20030155031 *||Apr 30, 2003||Aug 21, 2003||Barton John C.||Touchless automatic fiber optic beverage/ice dispenser|
|US20050268624 *||Jun 4, 2004||Dec 8, 2005||Voglewede Ronald L||Measured fill water dispenser for refrigerator freezer|
|Citing Patent||Filing date||Publication date||Applicant||Title|
|US9488406||Jan 16, 2015||Nov 8, 2016||Whirlpool Corporation||Refrigerator dispenser and method of illuminating the dispenser|
|U.S. Classification||62/66, 62/264|
|Cooperative Classification||F25C2400/10, F25C5/005, F25D27/005|
|European Classification||F25C5/00B2, F25D27/00B|